Glory of the German Shepherd

Which breeds come to your mind when you hear the words ‘king of dogs’? Undoubtedly, the name that flashes in our minds is ‘German Shepherd’ or ‘GSD.’ People all over the world prefer to be owned by a GSD because of his royal look and an equally loyal and passionate attitude.

If you have never owned a GSD, you have missed one of life’s greatest pleasures.

If you are looking for a superb companion dog, then GSD is for you. For here’s one dog who will be devoted to you at all times. I still remember the time when I got married into a dog-loving family. I knew that they have a GSD at home but I never had a chance to meet him before marriage. Once I stepped into the house, I was welcomed by a strong and handsome GSD, who conveyed a sense of strength and intelligence. He did not bark at me but gave me a warm welcome. Very soon, I developed a strong bond with him.

German Shepherd or GSD, also known as Alsatian, is one of the most versatile dogs, who has excelled as a sentry and guard dog, police and army dog, tracker, drug detection dog, guide dog for the blind as well as a search and rescue dog. Apart from these utilities, he is an excellent show and companion dog.

As Sasikala Giri of Ginzberg, Bangalore, a reputed breeder of GSDs, puts, “A GSD is probably an international favourite of all breeds. He differs from other breeds as he fills in many different jobs. Since the earliest dates of history, he has been employed by armies to aid in fighting, as sentries, guards of prisoners, defend camps from enemies, detecting mines, working with rescue units, to find wounded soldiers and carry medicine.”

General appearance

A GSD is a handsome and well-proportioned dog. He is strong with a sturdy, muscular and slightly elongated body with a light but solid bone structure. He has a harmonious development of forequarter and hindquarter. “Position and setting of limbs harmonise in such a manner that a far-reaching endurant trot is assured. The gait is supple, smooth and long-reaching, carrying the body along. His croup is long and gradually sloping,” adds Giri.

His head is proportionate to his body with average size ears, which are wide at the base and high on the head. His almond-shaped eyes are slightly slanted and their colour matches that of their coat. His eyes radiate intelligence and confidence, full of life. His tail is bushy and his coat is thick and dense, comprising of straight, rigid hairs, tightly layered on the body. There are different colours of coat found in GSDs, which include black with tan, all black and steel grey.

According to Giri, he has a beauty which is undisputed. “He is stamped with a look of quality and nobility, which is difficult to define, but unmistakable. He gives an impression of perpetual vigilance, liveliness and watchfulness, alert to every sight and sound, with nothing escaping attention,” she adds proudly.

The average height of dogs is 24-26 inches while that for female dogs is 22-24 inches. Their weight ranges between 35 to 40 kg. They have a life expectancy of around 13 years.

Temperament

GSD is an intelligent dog and his intelligence should be utilised in a positive way. You can teach obedience training or else keep him involved in the family activities. GSDs are often used as working dogs as they are alert and fearless. They are bold and cheerful and are easy to train. A GSD is full of loyalty, courage and confidence. They love to please and demand companionship of their families. You should never isolate a GSD for long period of time. Their protective nature towards their family makes them wary of strangers but proper training and early socialisation prevents this problem to surface. They possess highly developed senses, mentally and temperamentally. Besides, he is strongly individualistic. They are good with children and other pets in the family. “A GSD loves and craves for human companionship and thrives on love and affection, without which he is a miserable and neurotic dog. When you have a GSD as a companion, he is a guardian, protector and your children’s playmate,” adds Giri.

GSD puppy

Giri tells that the best age to acquire a pup is about 8 weeks, as by then the pup would have been dewormed, vaccinated and weaned. She advises to follow the feed chart given by the breeder. Also, the pup should be kept in a dry, clean place with lots of ventilation. It is not advisable to isolate him. He should be kept on a rough surface so that he will get a firm grip. “The bones of a pup are very supple, if they are on smooth surface, their movement gets affected,” explains Giri. Give him good nutritious food at regular intervals. “He needs a lot of calcium, Vitamin B and multivitamins,” tells Giri.

A GSD puppy should be socialised from an early age to avoid behavioural problems at later stage. They should be trained lovingly but firmly.

Upkeep

GSDs are easy to maintain and you can keep them in your apartment if they are sufficiently exercised. They are relatively inactive indoors but a large yard to run around is an excellent option. “He is not a cage or kennel dog and requires freedom for his mental and physical development. In turn, you get protection and companionship. He will share your joys and sorrows and will never ask for anything in return except to be at your side,” says Giri.

Giri also tells that GSD make wonderful pets in city apartments as well as country homes or farms, because they are so easily trained.

Exercise

A GSD needs regular exercise. Physical activity benefits mental and emotional health. He loves strenuous activity, combined with moderate training. They love challenges and perform well. According to Giri, “Exercise is as important as food. To keep him fit, healthy and happy, he needs at least 8 km brisk walk or trot daily. A game of fetch, swimming, Frisbee disc, etc will be equally welcome by a GSD.”

Grooming

A GSD sheds hair constantly and is seasonally a heavy shedder. A quick daily brushing is an excellent idea. But, they should not be bathed frequently. “Start grooming when he is a pup and he will enjoy it for the rest of his life. Daily brushing will give the coat a healthy appearance and sheen,” adds Giri.

Health

A GSD is prone to hereditary diseases such as hip dysplasia, dermatitis and ear infections.

GSD shows

Sieger Show in Germany is an exclusive event for German Shepherd dogs and their breeders and handlers. Here, more than 3,000 dogs compete and are watched by over 70,000 spectators. The dogs are put to real test not only for confirmation but also for their working abilities, since GSD is a shepherd dog.

(With inputs from Sasikala Giri, a reputed breeder of German Shepherd dogs for nearly 30 years. She can be contacted at: Ginzberg, 710 Shyama Kamal, 47th Cross, 5th Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore -560041, Tel: 26632671, 26647648.)

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